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 Extremely low on memory: Black Program Icons In Program Manager

December 2003


When starting the Windows 3.x program manager or variants such as Win-OS/2, this error message occurs::

Extremely low on memory. There is not enough memory to convert all the program icons. The icons which are not converted will appear black. You can fix this by choosing FILE.PROPERTIES from the program manager (with the defective item highlighted) and pressing OK.

But attempting Microsoft's 'fix' results in the deletion of the program icon.


When you switch resolution or color depth, the program manager converts icons to match. But it doesn't reserve enough memory to do complete the job when the system is set to true color (16M colors) and there are more than about 16 icons in a group. This is why some icons turn black. Why Microsoft believed deleting a 'defective' icon consitutes a 'fix' is something else again.


There are several ways to work around this problem.

  1. Change to high color (64K color). Then you can have about 32 icons per program group and are very unlikely to run into this problem. Often, the only reason for casual users to set truecolor mode is if a video driver bug is causing a problem at 64K color. If that's the case, you might try sticking with 64K colors but using a different resolution. You might also try reinstalling your video drivers. Often, installing fixpaks and options of various sorts will change a *.dll file common to the video driver, resulting in unexpected problems. Reinstalling the video driver recreates a matched set of files, if you permit it to overwrite newer files. This may extinguish the problem.
  2. If you must use true color (16M color) mode, you can rearrange the icons in your program groups so that there are no more than 16 in any one group. This, however, may be quite inconvenient as it involves dragging unrelated icons from different programs into a common program group.
  3. Another possibility is to install the Workplace Shell for Windows. This is IBM employee written software that simulates the look and feel of the OS/2 Warp workplace shell. It is superior to the Windows program manager in almost every way. Program manager groups become folders that can have subfolders. You can have as many as you want. And there doesn't seem to be any problem with the number of icons in a group. Note that you can run this program under OS/2 Warp, but only in full screen mode, though Windows applications can still run on the OS/2 Desktop. Unfortunately, it is not a panacea: there are a few Windows programs that can only be installed under the program manager.
  4. Still another possiblity might be to run under the Windows file manager instead of the program manager. There were many people who preferred this, but trying the Workplace Shell for Windows may be a better choice.

W. Gregg Extremely Low on Memory: Black Program Icons (Dec. 2003) (w-gregg.juneau.ak.us/ 2003/ text/ 2003l00-extremely-low-memory).